Hec Ed on the University of Washington campus is experiencing an atmosphere it has not seen in a long, long time.
And for good reason as the Huskies, picked to finish 11th in the Pac-12 before the start of the season, are tied for first place with no. 23 Oregon. To say they've been a surprise would be an understatement a especially considering last year's leader in scoring and assists Nigel Williams-Goss, transferred to Gonzaga. Nonetheless they've s they've beaten some strong opponents such as UCLA and Arizona State. On the other hand, they've lost to inferior opponents the likes of UC Santa Barbara and Oakland.
Their up-and-down, hot-and-cold ways are indicative of the youthful makeup of the Husky roster. Although head coach Lorenzo Romar is the longest tentured coach in the conference with 14 years strolling the sidelines, with Andrew Andrews the long senior on a team with seven freshman.
Though they may be tied to first at 5-3 in conference play and 13-6 overall, fans likely won't keep the faith if they start to fade. Remember Romar's men started out 11-0 last year before ending the season 16-15. Still this season is ripe as any for a surprise team to steal a Pac-12 title. Only two teams in the conference are nationally ranked, the aforementioned Oregon and no. 18 Arizona who sit fifth with a 4-3 record.
UW definitely have the talent to pull it off, if they can overcome their youth. Despite their youth, they play a Romar branded style of defense, forcing turnovers and using their athleticism to create offense. They are long, which isn't affected by youth and as such they lead the nation in blocked shots.
Apart from their youth, these Huskies carry many common characteristics of successful Romar teams. There's the defense, the athleticism and a star upperclassmen leading the way in Andrew Andrews. A senior, Andrews is being looked to to possibly supply a Bradon Roy-like influence for this team. And he will need to if they want to make any sort of run at a postseason tournament, NCAA or otherwise.
Andrews leads the Pac-12 with 21.7 points per game in conference play, complimenting his 25.9 overall average. On the other end of the spectrum is reshman Dejounte Murray, a perfect compliment for the senior. The 6-5 170-pound guard from Rainier Beach is doing it all, averaging 14.7 points, 6.4 rebounds and 4.7 assists per game. He is one of only two freshman in the country putting up those kinds of stats.
In order to continue their surprising start, they'll have to grow up quick. And this weekend's road trip to take on UCLA and USC will be indicative of how much and how quick.
Photo: Flickr/Dave Sizer